Some 20,000 people marched peacefully through Athens on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of a bloody anti-dictatorship uprising in 1973, police said.
More than 5,000 police were deployed to keep order, as violence involving anarchist demonstrators has often marred the annual march to the U.S. Embassy. The event went ahead despite restrictions related to the pandemic, and most of the marchers wore masks.
After the march, minor clashes briefly broke out in another part of town when some youths threw stones at police and set fire to dumpsters.
A similar demonstration was held in Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki, with about 14,000 participants. The march ended peacefully, but afterwards youths threw petrol bombs at police who responded with tear gas and a water cannon. No injuries were reported, and police said at least 20 suspected rioters were detained.
In 1973, student-led pro-democracy protests at the Athens Polytechnic were crushed by police and troops sent by the military regime. Officers opened fire on unarmed demonstrators and bystanders near the Polytechnic, and an army tank smashed in the gates of the university complex behind which many students were gathered.
At least 20 are thought to have been killed, though the precise death toll of the November 1973 events remains unknown.
But the uprising was followed by a putsch within the military regime ruling Greece since 1967, which brought even more hardline officers into power.
Democracy was restored only in July 1974, after the dictatorship collapsed in the face of a Turkish invasion of Cyprus — provoked by the junta’s own machinations aiming to unite the island, whose majority is Greek-speaking, with Greece.
Mostly left-wing demonstrators have marched to the U.S. Embassy every year since 1974 because Washington was seen as supportive of Greece’s far-right military regime.
In a tweet Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the uprising reinforced the country’s “daily commitment to a secure democracy.”